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Need Something Fixed? Submit it in Writing

First of all, talking with your landlord is often the best way to address any type of problem – but if you’ve been unsuccessful in the past and/or feel reluctant to do so now, then your best bet is to document your request in writing and deliver it to the landlord (and always be sure to retain a copy for your own personal records, as well as documentation of the letter’s delivery!). Even if you’ve already determined that the responsibility may be very well be yours, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and ask your landlord to take care of the problem anyway. He or she may have either forgotten about any prior agreements or may even prefer to handle this particular problem – instead of allowing you to take a shot at it. After all, it’s the landlord’s property and some (more than others) just like to handle matters themselves as opposed to letting others meddle with their property.

The nice thing about a letter is that it gives you a chance to formally present the problem and argue why you believe it’s the landlord’s responsibility – or at least why it’s in his or her best interest to take care of it. A letter, more so than a conversation, bears a little more weight because it is perceived to be a serious attempt at communicating – which may even prompt reluctant landlords to give your request some serious thought instead of giving an immediate “No!” if approached in person. Although there are some who would argue that it may be more difficult for the landlord to say “no” in person. Regardless, the point of the letter is to document what and when you brought the matter to your landlord’s attention – just in case this turns into more of a problem down the road.

When drafting your letter, try to make some as many of the following points as you can (when applicable), because these will improve your chances of getting the problem resolved quickly.

By the way, don’t waste your time on smoke detector batteries. While the landlord is required to provide the smoke detector, the maintenance (e.g., replacing the batteries) is usually your responsibility. Now, if the unit isn’t working at all, then that’s the landlord’s responsibility to fix it.

Important Points to Make Regarding Your Needed Repair:

  • The problem may become worse if it’s not taken care of immediately
  • There is the potential for injury
  • Poses a security risk
  • May affect other tenants or neighbors

After delivering your letter, you should allow about 30 days (in non-emergency situations) for your landlord to schedule and perform your repair. As long as you’ve been a good tenant and have been performing your own required duties satisfactorily (such as keeping the unit clean, taking care of the appliances and paying the rent on time), you’ll find that your landlord will usually be glad to do his or her part in maintaining a healthy relationship with you. After all, you could choose to live someplace else.